Santiago, Chile, Aug 11, 2018 / 06:01 am (ACI Prensa).- Police seized documents and equipment from the office of the bishop of Chile’s military diocese Thursday as part of an investigation into accusations that Church officials in the country covered up clerical sexual abuse.
Personnel from Chile’s Carabineros arrived at the headquarters Aug. 9 in Santiago with a court order from the O’Higgins Regional Prosecutor’s Office. The offices of eight senior Church officials have been raided as part of the investigation, according to Reuters.
Chile’s military diocese was led from 2004 to 2015 by Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid. Attention to clerical sex abuse has heightened since Bishop Barros’ 2015 transfer to the Diocese of Osorno. Barros had been accused of covering up abuses committed by Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011 of abusing minors.
In a statement, the military diocese said it turned over the requested documents and equipment and expressed its willingness to cooperate in the investigative process “in everything that is required.”
According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, prosecutor Mariano Arias ordered the raid because the investigations “indicate that a cover-up by the military diocese may have been committed”, considering that the head of this office must report these incidents in his capacity as a public official of the armed forces.
The raid was authorized by the Chilean defense minister and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales of the military diocese was outside Chile at the time of the raid. Bishop Silva is also head of the Chilean bishops’ conference.
As part of the investigation, the Rancagua Regional Prosecutor’s Office summoned Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago to testify Aug. 21 concerning his possible responsibility for the crime of cover-up in cases of sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience.
On Aug. 9, the Archdiocese of Santiago reported that Cardinal Ezzati will be hospitalized for two days for a routine checkup following the insertion of a pacemaker in March.
On June 13 and July 12 the O’Higgins Regional Prosecutor’s Office seized documents of the Diocese of Rancagua and the Santiago archdiocese respectively in the process of this investigation.
Other dioceses, including Villarica and Temuco, also were the target of orders to seize their files as a result of the investigations being conducted on sexual abuse. Files from the Archdiocese of Santiago have been seized on two occasions.
On Aug. 9, the Diocese of Talca reported a new complaint of sexual abuse against Fr. Luciano Arriagada Vergara, who was in charge of the diocesan youth ministry.
Following the accusation, a preliminary investigation was initiated in order to determine the credibility of the allegation. A complaint was also filed with the regional prosecutor’s office.
The diocese stated that while this process is going on, the accused is barred from the public exercise of priestly ministry.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.